BASIC STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL PROPAGATION RAISING OR OBTAINING YOUR PLANTS For successful transplanting to your hydroponic system you need strong healthy transplants with abundant white roots on the OUTSIDE of the propagation block. A propagation block comprises any artificial or soil-less medium in which the transplant is raised from seed or cutting.
ARE MY PLANTS READY? Both plants shown below are ready for your hydroponic system. If your plants are not at this stage DO NOT transplant. It is always better to delay transplanting until correct root stage is reached in order to achieve best results in the end. The reason for this is that if white roots aren’t abundant on the outside of the propagation block at transplanting to your hydroponic system the block will absorb a large volume of solution. The roots inside the block will be saturated but with no access to oxygen. As a result they will die-back and successful introduction to your system will not be possible.
THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT
CONVENTIONAL PROPAGATION BLOCK
AEROPONIC PROPAGATION BLOCK
THIS IS WHAT YOU GET
BIG CROP: THE RESULTS YOU CAN EXPECT
ROOT MAT: THE DENSE ROOT MAT YOU
FROM YOUR HYDROPONIC SYSTEM
CAN EXPECT FROM A NFT SYSTEM PAGE ONE
RAISING TRANSPLANTS CONVENTIONALLY FROM SEED ENSURE YOUR ENVIRONMENT IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE PLANTS YOU INTEND TO GROW. THIS IS WHY A PROPAGATOR IS SO CONVENIENT. A. USING SOILESS COMPOST Germinate seed in a seed tray of compost. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant to a suitable size round plastic pot with drainage holes. (2.5”/3”(75mm) for tomatoes (1.25” (35/40mm) for lettuce. Alternatively germinate seed directly in the correct sized pot. Water as necessary. If your compost contains nutrient (see label) use water only. If your compost does not contain nutrient use a complete hydroponic nutrient at half strength. If necessary adjust pH in the watering can.
Your plants are ready to be transplanted to your hydroponic system when you can remove the pot and the compost remains bound by the abundant white roots of your transplants.
B. USING ARTIFICIAL COMPOST R
The leading brand in this category is it is recommended by Nutriculture.
N.B. Before using any products always thoroughly soak the material overnight in water at pH 5.5 and allow to drain. This reduces the alkalinity in the propagation block. Additional beneficial drainage may be achieved by squeezing the block prior to use. Using the small propagator block, plant the seed in the block and allow to germinate. Gently bury and cover over the seed using a blunt instrument.
Alternatively, seedlings raised in soil-less compost can be transplanted at this stage to a . propagation block instead of a soil-less compost in a pot. R
When the seedling develops it’s first green leaf begin to water sparingly with half strength complete hydroponic nutrient . If necessary adjust pH in the watering can. When seedling has developed white roots to the outside of the small block it can be transplanted to a larger propagation block soaked (at pH 5.5) and drained as before. R
As necessary hand water seedlings with half strength hydroponic nutrient. Your plants are ready to transplanted to your hydroponic system when white roots are abundant on the outside of block (inside the plastic liner).
RAISING TRANSPLANTS FROM CUTTINGS
GRODAN CUBES IN A PROPAGATOR
FOLLOW THE PROCEDURE EXACTLY AS FOR SEED PRODUCTION BUT NOTE THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER USE NUTRIENTS IN THE WATER UNTIL YOUR CUTTING HAS ROOTED. TIP: FOR RAISING SEEDLINGS OR CUTTINGS, OVERWATERING SLOWS ROOT GROWTH DRAMATICALLY. ALWAYS TEND TO KEEP YOUR PLANTS SLIGHTLY ON THE DRY SIDE.
RAISING TRANSPLANTS FROM SEED USING AN AEROPONIC PROPAGATOR ALWAYS BE SURE TO PLACE YOUR NUTRICULTURE PROPAGATOR IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THERE IS SUFFICIENT LIGHT AND HEAT. It has to be said that from time immemorial gardeners have successfully raised seedlings and cuttings using conventional techniques. Equally there’s no doubt that the vast majority of difficulties which are experienced in achieving successful hydroponic growing have there origins in transplant production and setting out. This is true irrespective of the hydroponic method employed to grow on the transplants though dripper & NFT systems pose more transplant problems than ebb & flood. Aeroponic transplant production seeks to minimise transplant problems by producing transplants with more of the features necessary for success. On page 1 we have shown how it is essential to have an external (of the propagation block) root system but using aeroponics the transplant can have a much greater percentage of external roots and what’s more this situation can be achieved more quickly. Not surprisingly then aeroponic transplant production has become very popular.
USING AN AEROPONIC PROPAGATOR Lots of options are available in choice of propagation material. All the popular media are successful. These include peat, stonewool such as , vermiculite, perlite, pebbles and mixtures of two or more components. The key to success is to use a small amount of propagation material. In the case of rooting of cuttings aeroponics allows production without using any propagation material. R
SEED PRODUCTION Place the seed at a appropriate depth in a small amount of propagation material contained in a small mesh plastic pot (shown right). Place in the aeroponic propagator. Otherwise sow seed in a seed tray (shown right). Seedlings should be transplanted to the small mesh pot when they are large enough to handle and then placed in the aeroponic propagator. At all times keep germinating seeds and seedlings in an atmosphere which is conducive to the plant you are growing. The propagation material can be kept damp through the occasional use of the root zone sprinkler BUT on no account add any nutrients to the propagator water during this process. Regularly watch for the emergence of a root from the propagation material. As soon as any root is visible outside of the propagation block it is time to add nutrient at 1/4 strength to the water in the propagator and to begin operation of the root zone sprinkler.
The root will soon develop into the air space between the bottom of the mesh pot and the nutrient solution.
ONCE ROOTS HAVE APPEARED FULL-TIME OR INTERMITTENT OPERATION OF THE SPRINKLER? Generally their is no advantage in running the sprinkler on intermittent control but this might not be the case with unusually sensitive plants if a water retentive propagation material is also used. The picture right shows the sprinkler in operation. INCREASE NUTRIENT STRENGTH: Your seedlings and cuttings will show good root growth each day. As they do gradually increase nutrient strength to 1/2 strength.
RAISING TRANSPLANTS FROM CUTTINGS USING AN AEROPONIC PROPAGATOR ALWAYS BE SURE TO PLACE YOUR NUTRICULTURE PROPAGATOR IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THERE IS SUFFICIENT LIGHT AND HEAT.
CUTTINGS PRODUCTION Just as with seed production any propagation material can be employed but additionally cuttings can be rooted in an aeroponic propagator without using any propagation material at all.
USING PROPAGATION MATERIAL Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone and make a suitable hole in the propagation material held in a mesh pot. Place the pot in the aeroponic propagator and start the sprinkler using water only for just sufficient time to wet out the propagation material. Keep the cutting in an environment sufficiently warm to encourage rooting and ensure light levels are not too high. Watch for the emergence of roots from the propagation material. As soon as roots are noticed start the root zone sprinkler with water to which 1/4 strength nutrient has been added.
USING THE AEROPONIC PROPAGATOR WITHOUT PROPAGATION MATERIAL Here set-out the cuttings through a semi-rigid plate shown below. Suitable plate materials include foam, plastic sheet, rubber sheet etc. In this case a rooting gel formulation is often used in preference to a rooting powder. With the aeroponic propagator placed in a suitable environment start the root zone sprinkler full-time. As soon as roots emerge from the cutting add nutrient at 1/4 strength.
ONCE ROOTS HAVE APPEARED ROOT ZONE HEATING Even in a good quality aerial environment root zone heating usually improves root growth (which is just what you are trying to deliver). Inexpensive solution heaters with thermostats are readily available from your supplier for this purpose. Don’t apply too much heat or introduce large wattage heaters. Gentle heat is what’s required.
pH ADJUSTMENT: In accordance with your nutrient instructions adjust pH as required.
WHEN ARE MY PLANTS READY REMEMBER FOR SUCCESSFUL TRANSPLANTING TO YOUR HYDROPONIC SYSTEM YOU NEED HEALTHY TRANSPLANTS WITH ABUNDANT WHITE ROOTS ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE PROPAGATION BLOCK. THE PICTURES BELOW EMPHASISE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS, SHOWING THE STAGE YOUR PLANTS NEED TO BE FOR SUCCESS.
THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT
CONVENTIONAL PROPAGATION BLOCK
AEROPONIC PROPAGATION BLOCK
TYPICAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR YOUR SYSTEM
NFT (NUTRIENT FILM TECHNIQUE)
EBB & FLOOD (EBB & FLOW)
In both instances just place the propagation block onto your NFT channel. When placing the aeroponic propagation block (including mesh pot) you can gently ease the roots to lay flat. It’s not a problem if you bend over any of the roots.
In both instances just place the propagation block onto your clay pebbles. When placing the aeroponic propagation block (including mesh pot) you can gently ease the roots to lay flat. It’s not a problem if you bend over any of the roots. Continue to fill the rest of the table or pot with clay pebbles.
KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER 1. ENSURE ATMOSPHERIC (AIR SPACE) ENVIRONMENT IS SUITABLE FOR THE PLANT YOU INTEND TO GROW. 2. USE SMALL AMOUNTS OF PROPAGATION MATERIAL OR NO PROPAGATION MATERIAL AT ALL. 3. DON’T ADD ANY NUTRIENTS UNTIL WHITE ROOTS ARE VISIBLE. 4. MAINTAIN NUTRIENT & PH LEVELS. 5A. TRANSPLANT WHEN ROOT BOUND (CONVENTIONAL). 5B. TRANSPLANT WHEN ABUNDANT ROOT (AEROPONIC).